Richard Dur, Commentary:

Three weeks after the release of Sound of Freedom, a film that tells the incredible true story of a former government agent who embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue hundreds of children from sex traffickers, Premier Danielle Smith announced a $4-million investment to tackle the scourge of human trafficking in Alberta.

Typically, human trafficking takes the form of sexual exploitation or forced labour; the vast majority of trafficked victims (96 per cent) are women and girls.

Smith’s announcement represents a hopeful development in the fight against sexual exploitation, for which she and her government should be commended.

Unfortunately, forcing or coercing women to have abortions is just another method that traffickers, like pimps, use to wield their power over women and girls. So, the fact that an almost complete legislative vacuum exists when it comes to abortion in Alberta, is baffling.

Abortionists have been left unaccountable in the trafficking, exploitation, and abuse of Alberta’s women and girls. If Smith is serious about putting an end to trafficking, she should put an end to the means by which that exploitation is so often covered-up and by which it continues. Not to do so is to ignore the complicity of the abortion industry in the exploitation from trafficking of Alberta’s women and girls.

Three policy proposals that would help ensure vulnerable women and girls get the protection they deserve, including safeguarding against coerced-abortions, are 1) requiring parental consent for minors undergoing an abortion, 2) requiring abortion providers to screen and report on suspected cases of trafficking, exploitation, and coercion, and 3) prohibiting abortion-pills from being prescribed online or over the phone.

1) Parental consent for minors. Minors in Alberta can undergo an abortion without the consent — or even knowledge — of their parents. So unlike when a minor child wants a tattoo, an ear piercing, requires surgery, or even needs an aspirin while at school, the consent of parents is not required for that same minor to undergo an abortion.

Parents might never know of their daughter procuring an abortion. And in cases where abortion is used to cover-up the exploitation of that child (as occurs in over 50 per cent of cases, according to one U.S. study), parents may never learn of their daughter’s exploitation.

Like the premier stated in her announcement: human trafficking “persists in the shadows.” So why then does there continue to be no legislation requiring the informed consent of parents when it comes to an abortion for their minor daughter? The absence of abortion regulations leaves our girls vulnerable to continued exploitation, abuse, and trafficking.

2) Requiring abortion providers to screen and report. Perhaps just as bad, there is nothing requiring abortion facilities to report suspicions of exploitation, abuse, or trafficking. So, girls and women who repeatedly procure an abortion (as is the case in nearly 30 per cent of trafficked victims) are left to fend for themselves against the ruthless hands of their exploiters. At the very least, abortion providers should be required to screen and report on possible cases of trafficking, exploitation, and coercion.

3) Prohibiting telemedicine abortions. Lastly, apart from all the other dangers they pose, chemical abortion services using the abortion pill make it easier to traffic women and girls without discovery. The prescription of chemical abortions (Mifepristone/Misoprostol; Mifegymiso) should be removed from telemedicine done over the phone or online, to further reduce the risk of exploitation by traffickers, pimps, and abusive partners.

Smith said: “We can’t afford to close our eyes to the problem of human trafficking. And we can’t afford to ignore those who are at risk of being trafficked or those who have been trafficked.” Prolife Alberta couldn’t agree more. Let’s hope Premier Smith opens her eyes wide to the connection of sex trafficking with abortion and fills the legislative void by closing the loopholes in the abortion industry that facilitate — and often cover-up — the trafficking, exploitation, and abuse of our women and girls.

Richard Dur is, among other things, the executive director of Prolife Alberta, a group of women and men committed to promoting pro-life public policy in Alberta through politics.